To cash in from replay...
DARREN PRATLEY rescued Bolton Wanderers from being dumped out of the FA Cup – and set up a replay that could bring in vital cash to the debt-ridden Championship club.
Pratley struck in the 87thminute to break National League Eastleigh’s hearts after they’d gone ahead through a Dorian Dervite own goal early in the second half.
Defeat would have been a disaster for Bolton, whose players have been forced to miss a month’s wages because of their financial crisis.
With reported debts of around £180m, the vultures are circling with midfielder Mark Davies looking to be on his way to Sheffield Wednesday and Zach Clough also set to depart – with Bristol City and Wednesday again hoping to swoop.
Boss Neil Lennon accepts he has little choice but says he’s sorry to see them go.
“It’s very difficult and they may go to rival teams,” he said.
On Clough he added:“We don’t want him to go obviously because I think there’s a lot more football in him to come and we want to bring him on a bit more.
“But the nature of the circumstances we find ourselves in as a club is that money dictates what we’re doing.
“When you’re losing players from I wouldn’t say a shoestring squad, but a squad we haven’t really spent any money on, to lose quality players like that will make staying in the Championship more difficult because other teams, you’d imagine, will strengthen.”
Even former Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday and Eastleigh striker Lee Peacock, now working for the Spitfires’ academy, had his squeegee out trying to push the water off the sodden pitch before the game.
Thanks to a helping of sand, the green light was given after a third inspection.
Wanderers may have wished it hadn’t as Eastleigh impressed. Yemi Odubade blazed off target and Jai Reason forced Ben Amos to scramble across his line to push another effort away.
And six minutes after the break things got worse when Reason’s cross was diverted by Dervite’s outstretched leg past his own keeper.
Had it not been for David Wheater’s clearance off the line from Andy Drury – after a pitch invader bizarrely distracted both sets of players – then it could have been game over.
Eastleigh keeper Ross Flitney made some good saves to keep the Championship side, 51 places higher in the league system, at bay but he couldn’t do anything to stop the equaliser.
Pratley was on the spot to poke home Warren Feeney’s corner from close range to get Bolton unstuck from the muddy pitch.
“The pitch is a leveller and Eastleigh to their credit played very well,” Lennon said.“This was their big day. I’ve played in games like this for Celtic, we lost to Clyde. So I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of something like that.We just had to stay patient and not panic and thankfully we got the equaliser.
“I wasn’t overly happy with the pitch. It’s one of the worst pitches I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some crackers in my time in Scotland. So I wasn’t overly enamoured with it, but we travelled, people were waiting to get into the ground and the referee did say if there was heavy rain he’d call it off.”
Eastleigh boss Chris Todd said: “The players should be very proud of themselves because the performance was outstanding.
“It’s been a very special day for the football club and it’s been topped off by the performance.”